The 96th Academy Awards (2024)
I’m really glad I saw American Fiction in theaters. Based on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett, this is a tricky movie because it openly challenges audiences (especially white audiences) to question their taste. It’s the story of an author choosing to forgo artistic integrity and self-respect in favor of people-pleasing drivel, and how that farce leads him to unbelievable success. So then when I watched it, I couldn’t help but wonder how in on the joke was I? Am I watching a satire or is the real satire that American Fiction is garnering critical praise and award nominations? Thankfully, I saw it with a crowd who were engaged and laughing at the jokes, so I was able to remember the important thing: if I’m having a good time, the rest doesn’t matter.
The 65th Academy Awards (1993)
For a brief period in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it seemed like the films produced by Ismael Merchant and directed by James Ivory were a bit of an Oscars juggernaut. Granted, none of these movies ever won Best Picture, and they only occasionally get talked about nowadays, usually as an obligatory example of a staid British period piece. But they seemed important at the time, even if they haven’t remained all that accessible. So I’ve had a vague interest in watching at least one of these movies, and the best place to start seemed to be Howards End, which is probably the most acclaimed of the Merchant-Ivory productions. Luckily it turned out to be pretty compelling and full of ideas that still ring true, even if it may appear a bit stuffy on the surface. Continue reading
43rd Academy Awards (1971)
I had no idea until two minutes ago that Love Story was the highest grossing film of 1970. You know what number 2 was? Airport, which Colin covered two days ago. It’s crazy to think that back in the day, if a film was a big enough hit it would factor big into the Oscars. It doesn’t even matter if it was good. I think this is why the Oscars seemed way more relevant back then. The Oscars, good or bad, were a better reflection of popular culture. Now you ask your average joe how many Oscar nominated films they’ve seen and chances are they haven’t even heard of half of them.
Promising Young Woman (2020)
93rd Academy Awards (2021)
If you don’t mind, let me jump us forward now all the way to the pandemic, that ghastly period which, among the many, many tragedies, snatched away a normal release for Emerald Fennell’s feature debut after a successful premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Denied its scheduled April theatrical run, Promising Young Woman ended up limping into theaters on Christmas Day and went onto VOD a couple weeks later. You might think that was a tough go for a low-budget indie, but actually I think this worked out great because I can’t imagine a better time for a movie like this than a year after Joker.
Whenever we do these weeks or months around a certain theme, it’s all about finding the different connections that pop up between disparate films. Today’s entry has a few of those, since for the second day in a row, we’re reviewing a Burt Lancaster movie where he’s part of a larger ensemble, but also like the last movie I reviewed, happens to feature a score by Alfred Newman. Considering the 31-year difference between Wuthering Heights and Airport, it’s not all that surprising to learn that this would be Newman’s final film score. The presence of Newman and Lancaster illuminates the fact that Airport is a movie very much catering to a 1970s audience, but also has its roots in old-fashioned Hollywood entertainment. Continue reading
From Here to Eternity (1953)
The 26th Academy Awards (1954)
Is there a more romantic scene in cinema than Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr making out on the beach in From Here to Eternity? I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this scene parodied, from Airplane, to The Nutty Professor, to multiple times on The Simpsons. Little did I know the scene in question is depicting two adults committing adultery. Is From Here to Eternity an edgier movie than I thought?
28th Academy Awards (1956)
Well, I’m sorry to report that none of this year’s best picture nominees are remakes of previous Oscar-winning best pictures, which means I needed a new gimmick for the 2024 Oscars Fortnight. The one I settled on were best picture nominees that were made by first-time directors, since there are actually two of them up for the award this year, American Fiction and Past Lives (I’ll be writing about both). Now, you may be wondering, how often does someone’s first feature get nominated for film’s most prestigious award? I don’t know! I didn’t find a comprehensive list anywhere, but I know some of the movies we’ve already covered, like Citizen Kane and Dances with Wolves, were directorial debuts so it can’t be insanely rare. Who cares? All that really matters is I got the perfect movie to watch around the Valentines season, so let’s get into Marty!